One-Fourth of K-12 Math Instruction Occurs Digitally, Survey Suggests

By Benjamin Herold — March 06, 2019 2 min read
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Despite the massive influx of devices and software into K-12 schools, educators say the vast majority of math instruction takes place offline, according to a new survey from market intelligence firm Simba Information.

“Only about one-quarter of math instructional time is spent using digital tools or content,” according to the “K-12 Mathematics Market Survey Report 2019,” released by the group last month.

“Educators appear to still want substantial time for direct instruction, group work, and traditional problem solving via paper and pencil.”

The findings are based on a survey of 427 educators across 49 states, more than half of whom were math teachers or math department chairs. The survey, administered via postal mail in October 2018, was not nationally representative. A selected slice of the proprietary data collected by Simba Information was made available to the public.

While comprehensive, large-scale research on the use of digital materials for math instruction remains scant, the findings from Simba Information broadly track other trends in the market. Print textbooks and other resources remain highly popular in districts, many of which favor a hybrid print-digital strategy when it comes to instructional materials. In addition, Education Week Market Brief recently reported that the typical district doesn’t use 30 percent of the ed-tech software licenses it purchases. he big three education publishers—Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, McGraw-Hill Education, and Pearson—continue to dominate the market, the firm says.

Teachers surveyed by Simba Information reported that Chromebooks are the most popular device for students to access digital content in their classrooms, and Khan Academy is the digital resource their students most often use. But print remains “the format in which students most often access the core programs being used.”

That holds true across grade levels, the firm found. In K-2, about 22 percent of math instruction involved digital tools or content. That figure was 23 percent for grades 3-5, 28 percent for grades 6-8, and 25 percent for grades 9-12.

The average figure of 25 percent of time spent using digital tools for math instruction in 2018 was down from prior years. In 2013, for example, the group reported that roughly 29 percent of math instructional time was digital.

And when it came to specific uses of digital technology, Simba Information found that more than half of survey respondents said “a large percentage” of their students were playing educational games. But fewer than 10 percent said the same about students using technology to work in robotics, coding, augmented- and virtual-reality, and makerspaces.

Image: Getty

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Digital Education blog.